Simple Steps to Writing, Revising and Editing an essay
Writing a good essay requires refined critical thinking, which can be improved by experience. But one of the key elements to a good essay is form, and we are here to help you with it. There are numerous forms of writing that we face everyday. The following is an explanation of the process of writing in a simple and understandable way.
An essay can have many purposes, but the basic structure is basically the same. You may be writing an essay to argue for a particular point of view or to explain the steps necessary to complete a task.
Either way, your essay will have the same basic format.
If you follow these simple steps, you will find that writing an essay is easier than you had initially thought.
- Select your topic.
- Choose the thesis, or main idea of your essay.
- Prepare an outline or diagram of your main ideas.
- Outline your essay into introductory, body and summary paragraphs.
- State your thesis idea in the first paragraph.
- Finish the introductory paragraph with a short summary or goal statement.
- In each of the body paragraphs the ideas first presented in the introductory paragraph are developed.
- Develop your body paragraphs by giving explanations and examples.
- The last paragraph should restate your basic thesis of the essay with a conclusion.
- After you followed these easy steps your writing will improve and become more coherent. Always remember, form is only a part of the process. You become a better writer primarily by reflecting and analyzing rather than memorizing.
Guidelines on how to revise an essay
The best writers revise. And they revise again. Then they revise yet again. So, given that professional writers revise, it would be wise for beginning and intermediate writers to revise, too. One Professor, when asked how students could improve their writing, said these three words: "Revise, revise, revise." It's such a common mantra for writers and artists that a recent online search came up with over 16,000 hits for the phrase!
Revision means, literally, to see again. There are several stages to revision.
The first thing to consider is the goal of revision: Writing to communicate.
In order to communicate well, here are some guidelines to consider while you revise:
- Don't necessarily include everything
- Especially for academic writing, include a thesis, which is your answer to a (researched) question or your (reasoned or researched) position on a debatable topic.
- Include clear markers or transitions, citation of sources, and other help so readers can follow you along the path of your thoughts (argument, analysis, critique)
- Include the main points and the highlights from your research or reasoning that which supports your thesis, and that which might appear to contradict your thesis except that you, as a "tour guide," will explain why the material doesn't fit or why the contradictory material is wrong, and that which readers might reasonably expect, given your subject matter
- Include support and evidence for each main point, which might be logical reasoning, explanations, data, and arguments of your own; or evidence, arguments, and theories from other sources (properly credited)
- Often you should include answers to these questions: who, what, where, when, why and how about the whole topic; about major sources, theories, concepts; and about major developments related to the topic
- Make sure the result is clear communication that will be understood by your intended audience
Revision gives new life to your writing. The first stage involves going through the draft and reorganizing main ideas and supporting ideas so that they are grouped in a way that is understandable to your reader. Your organization will usually first put forward stronger points (in an argument), earlier information (for a narrative), or background (in many cases). However you organize, your readers need to understand what you are trying to communicate.
After that, refine your arguments and evidence, your descriptions, and all of the details, so that they give a sense of the writing being of one piece, or a whole. Let one description arise from another, or one piece of evidence support the next. Put all of the pieces in that are needed, and remove those that are not.
Even the most experienced writers make inadvertent errors while revising--removing a word or adding a phrase that changes the grammar, for instance.
Here are some tips to help focus your revision:
- Have other readers looked it over? A professor, boss, classmates, colleagues, roommates or friends
- Explain to a few different people what you've written, same group as other readers
- Read more on the topic (new sources, but also revisit already cited sources)
- Make an outline or highlight your draft as though it were a reading
- Set it aside for a day or two (longer, if possible) and then re-read it
- Read aloud to yourself
- Read it backwards
- Make a presentation. Presenting your paper orally to others often helps shape and focus your ideas
- Write a new introduction and conclusion, and then see if the paper fits the new introduction and the new conclusion
- The final stage or revision is copy editing, or proof reading.
Tips for editing a paper or an essay
Good editing or proofreading skills are just as important to the success of an essay, paper or thesis as good writing skills. The editing stage is a chance to strengthen your arguments with a slightly more objective eye than while you are in the middle of writing.
Indeed, editing can turn a good essay or paper into a brilliant one, by paying close attention to the overall structure and the logical flow of an argument. Here we will offer some tips on how to edit a paper or an essay.
Tips for editing a paper or essay:
1. Read over other things you have written, to see if you can identify a pattern in your writing, such as problematic punctuation, or repeated use of the same adjectives.
2. Take a break between the writing and editing.
3. Read by sliding a blank page down your lines of writing, so you see one line at a time. Even in editing or proofreading, it is easy to miss things and make mistakes.
4. Read the paper out loud to get a sense of the punctuation, and make any changes to parts that feel unnatural to read.
5. Allow someone else to read over your paper, fresh eyes can see things you will not see.
While revision occurs throughout the writing process and involves such tasks as rethinking, overall structure, focus, thesis and support, editing and proofreading assume that the writer is working on the final draft and is in the process of making the paper correct.Correct punctuation, grammar, spelling, sentence structure, style, and word choice are important to the reader because they drastically affect perceptions of the writers authority and credibility.
In general, effective editing and proofreading require that you reread your writing carefully, that you play the role of reader rather than writer, and that you use strategies to help you slow down and examine your writing.This handout presents strategies for both editing and proofreading.
Editing is the process writers use to catch errors typical to their own writing.Because editing focuses on problems that are particular to an individual writer and that occur again and again effective editing requires that you know the types of errors you typically make and that you have specific strategies for finding those errors.
- Read the paper aloud as if you are reading a story.Listen for errors.If you listen carefully, you will be able to correct any errors that you hear.Listen for incomplete phrases, sentences and ideas, as well as things that sound funny.
- Stop and change anything you wish as soon as you see it punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.Move through the paper at a reasonable rate.
- Read the entire paper.Listen for spots that arent readable, that feel or sound awkward, or that dont seem clear.Mark these spots.Then, when youre done reading the whole paper, go back to fix them.
- Allow yourself some time between writing your paper and editing.Ideally, wait a day; this allows the writing to get cold, giving you an opportunity to "see" the errors.If you cant wait a day, go away and do something else for a while work for another class, cleaning, eating so that you can return to your work with a fresh mind and fresh eyes.
- Read one sentence at a time.
- Using a sheet of clean paper, cover all the text except the first sentence.Read this sentence carefully.Does it sound and look correct?Does it say what you want it to say?Continue down the page in the same way.
- Look for patterns of error.
- Personal patterns:All writers make mistakes that are typical of their writing.If you always forget commas, check for commas.If you always have trouble with transitions, look for transitions.If you work on wordiness, look for this.Bring your essays to the writing center!A tutor can help you to locate the patterns of error.
- List:Keep a list of your trouble spots.Use this as a checklist and refer to it as you edit.
4.Know your grammar and punctuation rules or know where to look them up.
· Study the rules of grammar and punctuation.Review the ones you dont know.If you have a writing handbook or handouts, keep them out when you write.Refer to them when you have questions as you write and edit.
Proofreading, the final stage, focuses on random goofs.The final draft has been corrected, but sometimes, because of computer error, fatigue, carelessness, or oversight, mistakes are still present.It is important to go through the paper one last time to catch these random goofs.
- Read the paper as a reader.
- Read and enjoy your work.Sit back, and read the paper as if you were the teacher.What do you notice?
- Read one sentence/paragraph at a time.
· Take a clean sheet of paper, and place it under the first sentence of your paper.Read this sentence carefully.Do you see any mistakes, typos, or careless omissions?
- Read backwards.
· Start at the bottom of the page on the right side.Look at the words from right to left, check for spelling/typographical errors.